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Safe Online Dating: A Brief Overview

Online dating can be an enjoyable and practical experience. It allows you to have private conversations with several people before selecting who you want to meet in person. And you can do this from the safety and comfort of your own home. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?

Nevertheless, despite the benefits of online dating there are plenty of drawbacks that come with it, especially regarding your privacy and security. Some risks associated with online dating include:

  • Stalking
  • Sextortion
  • Identity theft
  • Catfishing
  • Money laundering scams

By being aware of these threats and following some online dating safety tips, you can prevent or mitigate these dangers. In particular, we recommend following the 15 safe online dating tips below:

  1. Use a reliable dating app.
  2. Be careful about what information you share.
  3. Choose pictures you don’t use elsewhere.
  4. Don’t connect your dating profiles to other social media or platforms.
  5. Disable your Google advertising ID.
  6. Turn off location tracking.
  7. Use a GPS spoofer (a fake location app).
  8. Use a VPN.
  9. Report suspicious activity and inappropriate behavior.
  10. Delete your account when you’re done dating.
  11. Request a video call (before meeting your date).
  12. Investigate your date.
  13. Be wary of malicious files and pages.
  14. Be careful about revealing your wealth.
  15. Be safe during physical dates.

Read our in-depth article below to learn everything there is to know about online dating safety tips and common scams that might endanger your privacy.

Online dating is a growing trend. Meeting people from the comfort of your own space is a convenient way to gain access to tons of singles, without the awkwardness that frequently accompanies initial encounters in person. However, don’t let this comfort lull you into letting your guard down! Online dating involves various risks.

First, some dating apps and websites might be careless with your data. They may not apply the proper safeguarding protocols to keep your data private and may even lose your personal information during a data breach. They might even share your data with third parties, without your consent. Moreover, there are always some people with malicious intent on online dating sites who are out to scam you or abuse your data.

Because of these risks, we compiled this guide on safe online dating. We’ll discuss the privacy risks of online dating and 15 safe online dating tips for a secure journey into the virtual romancing world. We have also included a list of some common online dating scams to help you become more aware of the dangers of this popular trend.

The Risks of Online Dating Services

You might ask yourself what could possibly go wrong with online dating. Isn’t it actually a lot safer than meeting someone you barely know in person without talking to them first?

Before you start your online dating journey, you have to register with an online dating service. These services, however, need some personal information from you. This carries some risks, such as the possibility of falling for a scam or jeopardizing your privacy by disclosing sensitive information. Dating apps may:

  • Store your personal messages and pictures.
  • Share your information with third parties.
  • Allow others to gain easy access to your private data.

All the above can compromise your safety and privacy both online and in the real world. We take a deep dive into how this can affect online dating users below.

Most online dating services gather tons of personal details

To find your perfect match many online dating services collect tons of data about their users. Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence are then used to analyze this data and offer match recommendations. The user data gathered by online dating services include:

  • Sexual preferences
  • Sexual identity
  • The preferred religion of the user
  • Health information
  • Employment data
  • Education details
  • Personal pictures

There are even apps, such as Tinder and Parship, that store your messages. Needless to say, if this information falls into the wrong hands, this could be disastrous.

Some dating apps have gained notoriety for sharing users’ personal data when they shouldn’t have. For instance, Tinder, OkCupid, and Grindr breached the most important European privacy regulation (the GDPR) in 2020, despite operating in many European countries. They did so by sharing sensitive data with third parties and not being sufficiently transparent about this.

The scenario above wasn’t the first time a dating app made headlines for negligent privacy practices. In 2016, the Norwegian Consumer Council revealed that Happn, another dating app, shared user data with an American marketing agency.

In 2018, Grindr shocked the hopeful singles registered on its site by sharing information no online dater wants to be public about: their HIV status and physical location. They kept sharing this data until 2020.

From the information presented above it is clear that some dating apps can endanger your privacy by not safeguarding your data. However, the biggest danger comes from other users actively looking to harm you. By not being careful, you could become a target of the following malicious practices and scams:

  • Stalking
  • Catfishing
  • Sextortion
  • Identify theft
  • Fake dating websites
  • Money laundering scams

We’ll discuss these in more detail near the end of this article. For now, let’s take a deep dive into the 15 most useful online dating tips.

Safe Online Dating: 15 Tips

The risks outlined above might make you wonder if online dating is really a good idea. Don’t worry too much, though. Safe online dating is definitely possible, provided you are aware of the risks and take some precautions. So follow the tips below for a safer and more enjoyable experience in the online dating world.

1. Use a reliable dating app

This first safe online dating tip aims to mitigate one of the risks we discussed: dating apps being careless with your data or sharing your personal information intentionally.

We strongly recommend doing some research on your dating app of choice before committing. A great place for real reviews about anything, including dating apps, is Reddit. We also strongly recommend checking out Trustpilot, which is a review site with a focus on exposing malicious services and scams.

Screenshot of Trustpilot, Tinder

As you can see above, Tinder has very poor reviews on Trustpilot, indicating many of its users don’t find the platform trustworthy and reliable.

We also strongly recommend at least glancing over the privacy policy of any dating service you want to use. Even better, of course, is to actually read the policy carefully. We understand that this is difficult, time-consuming, and frankly, mind-numbing, but it is essential for your safety.

2. Be careful about what information you share

We also recommend limiting the (sensitive) information you share on your dating profile. This is especially true if your profile is public and anyone can find it, which very often is the case on dating apps. Every time you add some of your personal data, ask yourself if you’re okay with that information being part of the public domain.

Never share your contact information on your profile. This includes your email address, your phone number, and your home address. Also avoid giving out your full name, as this makes it easy for others to find your other social media accounts.

Depending on where you are, you might want to leave out certain preferences as well, such as your sexual orientation and your religion. Remember that cultural values (and laws) vary across regions and countries. Many Middle Eastern countries are much more conservative when it comes to sex and religion than the West, for instance.

Even if you’re hitting it off with someone, be careful with what you’re chatting about. Don’t share any contact details and exchange messages using the service’s chat function, until you’ve really come to trust someone.

Even then, we recommend not sharing any information about your place of work or other places you frequent, at least until you’ve met your date in person and are able to evaluate them and their intentions a little better. This should serve to at least mitigate the risk of physical stalking or worse.

Whatever you do, don’t share any financial data or information that can be used against you, such as nude photos!

3. Choose pictures you don’t use elsewhere

By using a reverse image search, someone can easily use your dating profile pictures against you! They can simply use this Google tool to find other pages where the images appear. This way, they’ll easily find out your personal information, even if you didn’t include it on your dating profile.

As such, we recommend only using pictures on your dating profile that you’re not using anywhere else. This also means it’s a bad idea to allow Tinder or other dating apps to simply pull pictures from Facebook or other social media accounts.

4. Don’t connect your dating profiles to other social media or platforms

It might be tempting, for convenience reasons, to just log in on a dating app with your Facebook account or your main Google account. However, we strongly recommend against this, as it’s a potential privacy hazard. Just think about it. You’re connecting a profile that’s intended for friends and family to a platform where you’ll be contacting tons of people you don’t know.

Instead, we recommend using another way to log in, that can’t be traced back to you. One method, for instance, would be to create a Google account with random information that doesn’t contain any of your personal data.

The above is a great tip, in general, to log into services that you need or want to use, but shouldn’t get a hold of your personal information.

5. Disable your Google advertising ID

Google Play assigns unique numbers to every Android device. Google uses this number to identify different users and show them personalized advertisements. These are based on the user’s likes and preferences and past online activity. The ads that you can find within the interface of dating apps also use this number.

As it turns out, however, you can easily opt out of personalized ads. Follow the steps below to do this:

  1. Go to your Android phone’s “Settings.”
  2. Find “Google” and select “Ads.”
  3. Tap “Opt out of Ads Personalization.”
Screenshot of Ads settings

Following the steps above will ensure you’ll no longer see personalized ads in your dating app or elsewhere. Moreover, without your advertising ID, Google can no longer create a marketing profile for you on dating apps or elsewhere.

6. Turn off location tracking

Many dating apps require that you turn on location tracking. This means you have to allow these apps to view your GPS location. Dating apps use this information to get you into contact with people who are close to you geographically.

Of course, this is a very useful feature. Nevertheless, it’s understandable you might not want to share your exact location with a dating app, or with any service for that matter. Don’t forget Grindr, for instance, shared the location data of their users in the past!

We strongly recommend turning off geo-tracking once you’re no longer actively using your dating app. That way, at the very least, you prevent the app from tracking you constantly. The easiest way to turn off location tracking on an Android device is by:

  1. Unlocking your phone.
  2. Swiping down twice so the full short-cut menu appears.
  3. Clicking on the location symbol to disable geo-tracking.
Screenshot of mobile device, quick menu, location highlighted

7. Use a GPS spoofer (a fake location app)

As mentioned, many dating apps require you to turn on location tracking to use the app. If you don’t want to share your real location, not even temporarily, consider this additional safe online dating tip and use a location or GPS spoofer. A GPS spoofer will enable location tracking but will present a fake location.

If you’re using an iPhone device, it’s often not that straightforward to spoof your location. That’s because Apple is not a huge fan of customization and changing up settings.

There are still tools that allow you to get a bit more creative with Apple software, however. For instance, iTools allows for plenty of customization, including the option to spoof your location on your iOS devices.

On Android, there are tons of GPS spoofing apps you can choose from. One option that we really recommend is getting a reliable VPN, like Surfshark VPN, and using its geo-spoofing feature.

8. Use a VPN

Using a VPN is a great way to protect your privacy. That’s because VPNs provide two great ways to increase your anonymity: changing your IP address and encrypting your data traffic.

Changing your IP address ensures that many online parties and websites can’t determine your location. Moreover, they won’t be able to create and keep a profile on you based on your IP.

The second main feature of a VPN, encryption, is even more useful in protecting your privacy on dating apps. That’s because many dating apps don’t use your IP address but rather your GPS location to determine your whereabouts. For example, if you are on Grindr and want to hide your real location, you can use a VPN for Grindr.

However, at the very least, a VPN’s encryption will protect your data by making it illegible. This comes in very handy if your dating app doesn’t properly secure your data. It is extremely important to protect your data from hackers, during man-in-the-middle attacks, for instance.

9. Report suspicious activity and inappropriate behavior

Many dating apps have ways to report profiles and/or inappropriate behavior. This comes in handy when you come across a (potentially) fake profile or behavior that makes you uncomfortable. By reporting the profile involved, you will make your own and others’ dating experiences safer.

After you report an account, the respective dating app will generally launch an investigation. If someone’s profile is found to be fake or they are found guilty of inappropriate behavior, their account will be deleted.

Infographic showing types of suspicious activity you might encounter on dating apps

Types of suspicious or inappropriate activity you might encounter on dating apps include the following:

  • Fake profiles. Always be wary if you see a profile that’s unverified, offers little information, or seems too good to be true.
  • Money demands. If someone asks you for money there’s a good chance they’re a catfish.
  • Requests for explicit pictures. The person requesting these pictures might plan on sextorting you.
  • Inappropriate messages, such as messages containing threats or sexual intimidation.
  • Unacceptable behavior during a physical meeting exhibited by the people you meet.
  • Messages where people try to sell you something or get you to do something unrelated to dating (spam).
  • Rejection of video calls, even after chatting with someone for a long time. This might indicate you’re dealing with a fake account.

Many dating platforms also offer the possibility of blocking a specific user. This is a great option if someone is bothering you and you don’t want to have them contact you while you’re awaiting the results of the dating app’s investigation after reporting them.

10. Request a video chat (before your first date)

Another great safe online dating tip is to filter out fake dating profiles by requesting a video call. In fact, it can be a regular call as well, although video chatting is definitely better. Most people with fake profiles will be very reluctant to have a call, especially if a video is involved.

Obviously, it’s much easier for scammers to deceive their victims through text messages and sending someone else’s pictures. If they were to agree to a call, they would most likely just be discovered as fraudsters. As such, if someone refuses to have a (video) call, you might just be dealing with a fake profile.

Of course, you might be dealing with someone who is serious about meeting up at some point. In that case, a video call or a regular call is very useful as well. It will help you to gauge the other user’s intentions and character a little bit. This could definitely help you avoid some dangerous scenarios.

11. Investigate your date

As discussed, stalking is a serious risk of online dating. We definitely don’t want you to do anything remotely close to it. However, we do encourage you to find information on the person you’re chatting to on other platforms. This is simply a sensible safety precaution, especially if you plan on meeting them at some point.

One way to investigate someone you’re chatting to is to just open up your social media. If they’re using their real name on Tinder (which we don’t recommend), you can probably look them up. Additionally, some people have their Instagram account linked to their Tinder profile.

You can also try a Google reverse image search with one of their pictures. This might help you to find their other social media, in case they’re not using their real name on the dating app.

12. Be wary of malicious files and pages

Some catfish operate by infecting their victims’ devices with malware. Rather than asking you for money, they might attempt to infect your system with a keylogger, in the hope of getting their hands on your financial data.

That’s why we recommend against downloading files a new chat partner sends you. It’s best to wait until you know them a bit better and trust them. The same goes for visiting links they send you. Both of these can contain dangerous malware.

Some cybercriminals even use malware to advance their sextortion campaigns. For instance, they might send you a video or image that contains a Remote Access Trojan.

If they manage to infect your device, they could take over your camera and use it to take explicit images or videos of you. They can subsequently use these to extort you into doing what they want.

Apart from always being vigilant, we recommend getting a solid antivirus solution to protect yourself from malware. A great option that we wholeheartedly recommend is Bitdefender’s antivirus software.

13. Be careful about revealing your wealth

Many people don’t mind showing off the finer aspects of their lives to attract a date. However, be aware this could invite trouble. With all the scammers on dating platforms these days, flaunting your riches online is akin to walking through a rough-looking alley with a Rolex on your wrist.

Apart from people who might not like you for the right reasons, flashing your wealth could also attract cybercriminals. Of course, you might be a very savvy online dater. Even so, just like in the real world, it’s best not to raise unwanted attention and avoid potential scammers altogether.

Some dating apps and sites are specifically tailored toward wealthy older men looking for young attractive women. Seeking.com is an example of a site that even asks male members to list their net worth and yearly income. Subsequently, women can filter and select their matches based on a man’s net worth and income. This is sensitive information, and scams are consequently highly prevalent on this dating site.

Other sites, Thaifriendly being a good example, are sometimes used by prostitutes to solicit and find customers. Clearly, it’s a man’s wealth these women are after, so tread carefully and be reticent with sharing financial information when exploring the world of online dating.

14. Delete your account when you’re done dating

Have you finally met your soul mate? Or have you had your fill of casual dating fun? Either way, consider another valuable safe online dating tip, and make sure to delete your online dating account once you’re done dating.

Deleting your dating profile will erase (most of) your personal information on the dating platform in question. As a result, it will be much more difficult for others to abuse your personal information.

Do you want to know how to delete your Tinder account? In that case, be sure to check out our useful guide on deleting your Tinder profile.

15. Be safe during physical dates

After some online romancing, you might be ready to meet up for an actual date. However, be aware that real-life dating can arguably involve even more imminent dangers than its virtual equivalent. That’s why we recommend taking the following precautions before and during an in-person meet-up:

  • Tell someone close to you where you’re going.
  • Meet up in a public place, such as a coffee shop or a restaurant.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Also, be wary of your date or anyone else tampering with your drink.
  • Be nice, but clear. Don’t shy away from stating and enforcing (preferably verbally) your boundaries.
  • Consider getting a personal safety device or app. A good and simple-to-use free option is Noonlight.

Common Online Dating Scams

In this section, we’ll discuss some scams that users frequently encounter on online dating apps. Be sure to study these carefully and follow the tips mentioned above, to prevent falling victim to these romance scams.

Fake dating site scams

Icon showing website illustration with stamp saying fake over it

To reiterate our first online dating tip: steer clear from shady dating platforms! There are tons of dating sites around that are only out to take your money. Many of these sites sell credits that allow you to talk to the other members.

This business model wouldn’t be too objectionable in and of itself. The issue, however, is that, usually, the other profiles on these sites are fake. There are definitely dating sites with a credit system that are (semi-) legitimate.

One example of a legitimate “credit-style” dating site would be Ashley Madison. This is an adult-oriented platform, but quite a mainstream one, with more credibility than many of its competitors.

On the other hand, with all the free and credible options out there, such as Tinder, Happn, Badoo, Bumble, and Grindr, you might ask yourself if any paid site is really worth the risk of getting scammed and losing your money.

Identity theft

Icon representing identity theft, man holding a mask

The second of our online dating tips mentioned you should be careful about providing personal information. This section about identity theft reinforces that point.

Some scammers will use your personal information to pretend to be you. They might do so in the interest of getting a loan without affecting their own credit score, for instance. Alternatively, they could log in to your personal accounts, such as your online banking portal, if they have enough information.

Even by gathering seemingly innocent data on you, such as the names of your relatives, they could really harm you. After all, a lot of security questions for online portals involve the names of family members, educational institutions, etc.

We cannot stress this enough: be very careful with the information you share online and on dating platforms! Make sure to also read our complete article on identity theft to recognize potential danger and learn how to stay safe.

Sextortion

Icon representing sextortion, photo, money and alert red triangle

With the ever-increasing popularity of online dating sites, sextortion is a serious risk. This type of cybercrime involves gaining the victim’s trust and getting them to send over explicit images or videos of themselves. The “sextorter” will then blackmail the victim, using these images, to have them do what they want.

Usually, the final goal of this scam is to extort money from the victim. Nevertheless, the perpetrator might also ask for more explicit images or videos. They might even demand meeting up with the victim in person. In short, there’s no telling what kind of horror could come from sharing explicit images online.

Alternatively, these criminals could obtain sensitive content by infecting your device with malware.

Catfishing

What is catfishing icon

Catfishing is a serious risk to your online dating safety. Just like sextorters, catfish are generally after your money. They will often come up with fake but somewhat plausible stories that come down to them needing financial help. These might involve some of the following (fake) problems:

  • An ill relative that requires urgent medical care that they can’t afford
  • Being stranded abroad with insufficient funds to get back home
  • Not having enough money to come and visit you

Make sure to never give in to these requests for money! Someone on a dating platform asking you for money, instead of one of their relatives or close friends, is a huge red flag!

Money laundering scams

Money with coins icon

The final dating scam we’d like to point out might surprise some people. That’s because this scam actually involves a cybercriminal sending you money, rather than the other way around. Now you might think “Well, that’s pretty neat. Maybe true love exists after all.”

Unfortunately, some cybercriminals use dating platforms to find someone to use to launder their money. They might offer to send you a large amount of cryptocurrency for instance, with the request to send it back to them or to someone else as fiat currency.

What they won’t tell you is where the money they bought their crypto with comes from. As you can probably guess, the origin of the money is likely anything but legitimate. They will probably make up a story about why they can’t send the money themselves.

Of course, there are other ways cybercriminals could use you as an intermediary to launder their money. In general, someone you don’t know asking you to be some sort of money mule is a huge red flag.

Stalking

What is Cyberstalking icon

Stalking can’t really be called a scam, but we still wanted to discuss it. That’s because it’s a surprisingly common negative outcome of online dating.

We’ve all heard horror stories about stalking and some have even experienced them. Online dating can greatly facilitate stalking because people can use the personal information from your dating profile to find your other social media.

Now you might think you’re not facing any risks because you’re not using your real name and last name on your dating app. However, even if you don’t give out any personal data, you run the risk of being stalked.

A stalker can just use your profile picture to do a reverse image search and see if you’ve used that particular picture on another website or app. If you have, they’ll easily find this webpage or profile. They can now use any personal information this page contains to stalk you.

Final Thoughts: Protect Yourself From Online Dating Scams

Online dating can be tons of fun and is a convenient way to meet other people. If done right, it can actually make dating safer, because you get to vet any romantic suitors before meeting up.

Nevertheless, we’ve seen that online dating can also involve serious risks. These risks can come from dating platforms that are careless with your data. They can also come from other users and involve stalking, catfishing, sextortion, and many other dangers that can spoil the whole experience.

Fortunately, we’ve given you the best 15 safe online dating tips. Even so, we strongly recommend reading up as much as you can on all of the threats and scams you might encounter online. This way you can learn ways to stay safe while dating and otherwise. A great starting point would be reading some of our other articles on online security:

Safe Online Dating Tips: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a specific and pressing question about online dating? Check out our FAQ below to see if we’ve already answered it. If we haven’t, be sure to leave us a comment. We’ll get back to you shortly.

 

What are the red flags when online dating?


A few red flags to watch out for when dating online, include the following:

  • Your matches asking you for money
  • Chat partners asking you for explicit images or videos
  • Users that seem serious but refuse to have a (video) call

Be sure to check out our article on safe online dating to protect yourself from malicious dating app users.

How can a woman date safely?


Most of the main online dating safety tips apply to both men and women. However, women might face some additional challenges. We recommend being especially careful when meeting someone in person and not sharing explicit images of yourself to avoid sextortion.

How can you protect your privacy while dating online?


There are several ways to protect your privacy while dating online, such as:

  • Choosing a reliable dating app
  • Not sharing too much personal data on your profile or in chats with others
  • Only using pictures you don’t use elsewhere
  • Refraining from connecting your other social media to your dating profiles
  • Turning off location tracking or using a GPS spoofer, such as the one offered by Surfshark

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